The novel technique suggests that the government was struggling to manage the fallout from the disappointing results of the previous weekend’s elections.
Adopting a technique used more often for stray dogs than with opposition protesters, the Azerbaijani authorities detained several activists in Baku and dropped them off hundreds of kilometers away.
The activists were rounded up just ahead of a planned rally February 16 against the fraudulent parliamentary elections held the weekend before. The protest was to be held at the headquarters of the Central Election Commission, where another protest had been violently broken up a few days before.
This time, though, the police were more pro-active.
Before the rally, several leaders of the organizations putting it on were detained, including the leader of the ReAl party, Ilgar Mammadov, the leader of the Musavat party, Arif Hajlili, and some members of a bloc of young, independent candidates in the elections including Mehman Huseynov and Ulvi Hasanli.
These men and several others were taken to a variety of remote locations and left to fend for themselves.
“As I was going to the rally, plainclothes [officers] kidnapped me right at the exit from my home,” Mammadov wrote later on Twitter. “Drove 160 km West of Baku. Waited for 20 mins. Drove back & dropped me 35 km away from home, near the nuclear waste facility in the middle of nowhere. Total 4,5 hours.”
Hasanli and Huseynov were dropped off together, about 150 kilometers from Baku. A photo of Huseynov looking comically forlorn in the desolate landscape went viral, epitomizing the absurdity of the situation. OC Media documented several more of the abandonees, who were left either in small groups or alone in a variety of directions out of Baku.
Meanwhile, many others who actually made it to the site of the protest were detained as well. The independent news site Meydan TV counted 61 total detained.